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August 4, 2012

Camp Question No. 1: Quarterback

With the start of fall camp just days away, Cardinal Sports Report will examine five of the pressing questions facing the 2012 Stanford football team. The final feature in our series examines the most pressing issue facing the Cardinal: Who will take over for Andrew Luck at quarterback?

Previous

No. 5 - Wide receiver depth

No. 4 - Impact of new coaches Kotulski and Alamar

No. 3 - Safety concerns

No. 2 - Offensive line holes

While question marks along the offensive line, in the secondary and at receiver could pose problems for Stanford, the primary issue facing the Cardinal as they enter fall camp comes in replacing a legend.

Stanford has five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, but for all effective purposes the race to replace Andrew Luck is down to two players - redshirt sophomore Brett Nottingham and redshirt junior Josh Nunes.

The similarities between Nunes and Nottingham are striking. Each was a four-star recruit from the state of California, and committed to the Cardinal as the second quarterback in his respective recruiting class (Nunes in 2009, Nottingham in 2010) behind a player from the state of Utah (Taysom Hill in 2009, Dallas Lloyd in 2010). Both Nottingham and Nunes are listed by Stanford at 6-foot-4, and each can be described as a pro-style quarterback.

But there are differences between Nottingham and Nunes as well. From our conversations with a variety of sources, the best way to compare the pair is this: Nottingham has more arm talent, and probably a higher football upside, while Nunes has superior knowledge of the offense, is more adept at making pre-snap adjustments, and is more risk-averse.

So while Nottingham has gotten more "buzz," perhaps stemming from his performance in Stanford's spring game and open practices, and the fact that he was Luck's primary backup last season, it's far from a sure bet that he gets the starting nod on August 31 against San Jose State.

In fact, given the composition of the 2012 Stanford team, which is expected to feature an explosive defense and a solid running game, but also an inexperienced offensive line with major questions at receiver - the more conservative quarterback choice - who appears to be Nunes - might have the edge.

Ultimately, there's a good chance the competition will come down to the preferences of Pep Hamilton, David Shaw, and the rest of Stanford's offensive braintrust. Do they prefer a gunslinger with more upside, or the steady, reliable veteran?

Shaw's comments at last month's Bay Area college football media day seem to indicate he's leaning towards the latter.

"It's about efficiency," Shaw said. "It's about running the plays that are called, getting the ball to the guys that they should give it to, getting the ball out of their hands, not turning the ball over. All of those decision-making things that we put on the quarterback pre-snap, those things are huge. And that'll go a long way in determining who's the starting quarterback."



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